Thomas Lux in the WaPo: Tarantulas on the Lifebuoy

Photograph of poet Thomas Lux (email) from Georgia Tech, where since 2002, he has held the Bourne chair and directed the Poetry at Tech program.

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December 7, Mary Karr picked this Thomas Lux poem from his “New and Selected Poems” (Houghton Mifflin, 1997) for her column, “Poet’s Choice 2008. Here’s a 1999 interview with Lux from the Courtland Review.

Tarantulas on the Lifebuoy

For some semitropical reason

when the rains fall

relentlessly they fall

into swimming pools, these otherwise

bright and scary

arachnids. They can swim

a little, but not for long

and they can’t climb the ladder out.

They usually drown — but

if you want their favor,

if you believe there is justice,

a reward for not loving

the death of ugly

and even dangerous (the eel, hog snake,

rats) creatures, if

you believe these things, then

you would leave a lifebuoy

or two in your swimming pool at night.

And in the morning

you would haul ashore

the huddled, hairy survivors

and escort them

back to the bush, and know,

be assured that at least these saved,

as individuals, would not turn up

again someday

in your hat, drawer,

or the tangled underworld

of your socks, and that even —

when your belief in justice

merges with your belief in dreams —

they may tell the others

in a sign language

four times as subtle

and complicated as man’s

that you are good,

that you love them,

that you would save them again.

“Tarantulas on a Lifebuoy” is from .

Mary Karr has published four books of poems, most recently “Sinners Welcome.”

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